In a world where there isn’t enough time or flexibility in life - the pull of taking control and doing your own thing is something more & more people dream of doing. When people say it takes time to build your own business, unfortunately they aren’t lying! But don’t let this scare you away before you start. Successful businesses CAN BE built in evenings & weekends, around family, social lives and work. The best way to balance everything is to dedicate a set number of hours each week to focusing on your business. It could be just the 1 hour, or it could be a few hours, a few times a week. It doesn’t matter, just pick a number and stick to it.
Slow growth is still growth.
Will it be clothing, accessories, leather goods, hard goods? A mixture of them all? Then decide if you want to create your own custom designs, or if you’re happy to just put your own branding whole goods. What’s the difference? The custom route means your items are designed and made especially for you. You can create any design, using any fabrics, colours, trims, prints…. The whole thing is totally custom!
The faster option is to use stock already available from wholesalers which can then be labelled, printed, embroidered with your branding.
Custom design vs branded stock are two totally different routes to take your business. Often brands will choose a few pieces that will be custom designs (the hero pieces of the range) and then to keep costs low ‘top up’ the range with branded items such as t-shirts if they are working to a smaller budget but want to offer a wide variety of items at launch.
Taking all your ideas from step 2; the next part is to build your range. This means deciding on all the items you will offer.
You want to think about:
- How do the pieces work together in outfits?
- In which season/s will your items be sold?
- How many colours of each item do you want?
- How much will you plan to retail (sell) each piece for, and how much would you like to make (margin) on each one?
- How large is your budget to start – how large can you afford your range to be!?
As a new brand you will probably want to start small – every item you choose to have in your range will require start-up cost. Aim for pieces that are trans-seasonal so it won’t matter at what point in the year you launch, and it won’t matter if you have stock to sell all year round.
Time to decide on the building blocks of your business! You can always change these right up until you start ordering samples so try not to get stuck here (it’s very common to struggle confirming a brand name and logo) but the sooner you can make decisions on the below things the better. Changing a business name or branding halfway through sampling for example, will only mean spending more money and time to re-order any items with the new branding.
Things to do:
- Confirm your Business Name
- Have you registered your business (Companies House in the UK for example)?
- Confirm your logo, font and brand colours
A mood board with brand images, colours and inspirations is a great place to start firming up ideas. Also, start keeping track of expenses and planning your budget. How much will you need to get to launch? Make spreadsheets your best friend!
CADs stands for Computer Aided Designs and is a digital version of your designs. These are built out into Design Packs, and should show all details of your item, think stitching, construction, trims, every tiny thing! These Design Packs can then be inserted into a Tech Pack.
A Tech Pack contains all the technical parts of a design. Things like:
- Overview (size range, target cost price, product name & code, order size)
- Size Charts (the measurements for your item, think sleeve length, neck circumference, pocket sizes etc)
- Bill of Materials (BOM – a list of all items that will go into your design, from fabrics, to branding and care labels)
- Body Measurement Chart (what size body does your size Medium fit for example?)
- Packing List (how many of each size would you want to order?)
We recommend building these packs regardless of whether you are ordering custom or wholesale stock with your own branding on. They are a necessity when creating your own designs but are also very handy for keeping all product information in one place when branding pre-made items too.
Begin thinking about the below items; then reach out to potential manufacture partners to see if they are able to help. Don’t forget nowadays this is a 2 way working relationship, so be polite and don’t be afraid to share that you are new the process, they will most likely work this out as you go anyway so I find it’s nice to start the relationship in this way.
- Manufacture location – do you want your items made locally(if possible and within your budget) or are you comfortable looking overseas?
- Ethical / sustainable requirements – do you want to work with a fully sustainably focused supplier (harder to find and more expensive) or are you comfortable with an ethical supplier who can achieve better price points? (We never recommend working with anything LESS than the latter, prices will never be the cheapest BUT working with manufacturers who look after their staff and pay a living wage is the only way the industry should be running).
- Confirm your ‘target cost price’ for each item – how much do you want to pay the manufacturer to make each piece including all materials? This is important at this point; if you go through the process of sampling and sourcing with a supplier, but they can only make your item for £20 more than your RRP, realistically you’ll have wasted your own and the suppliers time… they won’t be able to lower the price that much and you’ll have to start from scratch somewhere else. If you have at least a rough target cost in mind and communicate this to the supplier before you start it keeps you all on the same page from the start.
- If branding wholesale stock, does the source offer these branding services too? Or do you need to source somewhere else to do this?
Depending on where you are getting your products made, you may need to spend time sourcing the perfect fabric & trims. Your supplier may be able to help, especially looking for options local to them. However if you want something specific or special, you may need to spend time looking around yourself. This goes for:
- Trims: think buttons, zips, elastics…
- Labels & branding: think size labels, where your logo is on each item, care labels….
- Prints: any pattern prints, screen prints, small or large….
- Packaging: polybags, dust bags, swing tags…. Anything you want attached to your items.
You will also want to start developing any custom items. Are you having a custom branded woven label for example? Once you have chosen the quality you’d like, suppliers will ask for artwork and dimensions and then they can create a quote and sample for you to approve.
Once you get to this step, things get really exciting! If you are designing and developing your own custom designs, we recommend you aim for approximately 3-4 samples. Usually this includes:
- Toile, your first sample in available fabrics to get the structure, construction and general design correct.
- Proto 1, should be in correct fabric to perfect the fit
- Size Set, we recommend ordering at least the smallest and largest sizes to check the sizing ‘grades’ correctly.
- Pre-Production Sample, the final sample with 100% correct fabrics, trims and labels. Ideally in all colours for the purpose of quality reference checks.
Each sample normally takes 4-6 weeks including shipping and review time, so make sure you work this into your critical paths!
Things to set up include:
- Social pages
- Business Bank Account
If you’ve been able to order one sample in each colour for all of your items as your Pre-Production samples; you can use these for a photoshoot. This means you can then use these images for your website and any social media, as well as for any launch campaigns or kickstarter pages.
If you’ve found a reliable supplier, they will take pride in their work so quality issues are rare and usually down to external circumstances. Some manufacturers may have internal quality control (QC) procedures, so ask about this. If not, it is possible to hire external QC inspectors to review production before the items are shipped to you. However, for most small brands when orders aren’t too large; you are usually okay to rely on the following QC procedure. Ensure a Pre-Production sample (PP) is approved. This must be 100% correct as it will be used as the QC reference sample. You can use this sample as the ‘standard for production’. Make it clear to your manufacture partner that this is the standard you expect from every piece in production. Therefore, if you have any pieces that arrive which do not meet the standard as approved, you can discuss next steps with your supplier, whether this is repairing any faulty items, a discount on the stock delivered, or replacement stock for example.
Production generally takes approximately 3-4 weeks depending on the size & complexity of your order.
Shipping generally takes 1-4 weeks depending on the size of the order and location. You can look at using couriers for small orders, or freight forwarders for larger orders.
Now you have your stock the hard work isn’t over, but you should take time to celebrate this milestone! You will have put months of work into this and deserve to take a breath and reflect back on the amazing job you’ve done to get here.
If you want any help building your range and getting from step 1 right through to step 10, getting external help & guidance will be one of the BEST investments you make. There are lots of parts that go into each step, and it can be stressful trying to go through the process alone.